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ilda studente

ilda studente

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Published by Kreshnik Gerbolli

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Published by: Kreshnik Gerbolli on Apr 26, 2010
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³The Fall of the House of Usher´ (1839)
A striking similitude between the brother and the sister now first arrested my attention. . . .
Summary
An unnamed narrator approaches the house of Usher on a ³dull, dark, and soundless day.´ Thishouse²the estate of his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher²is gloomy and mysterious. Thenarrator observes that the house seems to have absorbed an evil and diseased atmosphere fromthe decaying trees and murky ponds around it. He notes that although the house is decaying in places²individual stones are disintegrating, for example²the structure itself is fairly solid.There is only a small crack from the roof to the ground in the front of the building. He has cometo the house because his friend Roderick sent him a letter earnestly requesting his company.Roderick wrote that he was feeling physically and emotionally ill, so the narrator is rushing tohis assistance. The narrator mentions that the Usher family, though an ancient clan, has never flourished. Only one member of the Usher family has survived from generation to generation,thereby forming a direct line of descent without any outside branches. The Usher family has become so identified with its estate that the peasantry confuses the inhabitants with their home.The narrator finds the inside of the house just as spooky as the outside. He makes his waythrough the long passages to the room where Roderick is waiting. He notes that Roderick is paler and less energetic than he once was. Roderick tells the narrator that he suffers from nerves andfear and that his senses are heightened. The narrator also notes that Roderick seems afraid of hisown house. Roderick¶s sister, Madeline, has taken ill with a mysterious sickness²perhapscatalepsy, the loss of control of one¶s limbs²that the doctors cannot reverse. The narrator spends several days trying to cheer up Roderick. He listens to Roderick play the guitar and makeup words for his songs, and he reads him stories, but he cannot lift Roderick¶s spirit. Soon,Roderick posits his theory that the house itself is unhealthy, just as the narrator supposes at the beginning of the story.Madeline soon dies, and Roderick decides to bury her temporarily in the tombs below the house.He wants to keep her in the house because he fears that the doctors might dig up her body for scientific examination, since her disease was so strange to them. The narrator helps Roderick putthe body in the tomb, and he notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. Thenarrator also realizes suddenly that Roderick and Madeline were twins. Over the next few days,Roderick becomes even more uneasy. One night, the narrator cannot sleep either. Roderick knocks on his door, apparently hysterical. He leads the narrator to the window, from which theysee a bright-looking gas surrounding the house. The narrator tells Roderick that the gas is anatural phenomenon, not altogether uncommon.The narrator decides to read to Roderick in order to pass the night away. He reads ³Mad Trist´ by Sir Launcelot Canning, a medieval romance. As he reads, he hears noises that correspond tothe descriptions in the story. At first, he ignores these sounds as the vagaries of his imagination.Soon, however, they become more distinct and he can no longer ignore them. He also notices
 
that Roderick has slumped over in his chair and is muttering to himself. The narrator approachesRoderick and listens to what he is saying. Roderick reveals that he has been hearing these soundsfor days, and believes that they have buried Madeline alive and that she is trying to escape. Heyells that she is standing behind the door. The wind blows open the door and confirmsRoderick¶s fears: Madeline stands in white robes bloodied from her struggle. She attacksRoderick as the life drains from her, and he dies of fear. The narrator flees the house. As heescapes, the entire house cracks along the break in the frame and crumbles to the ground.
An
alysis
³The Fall of the House of Usher´ possesses the quintessential -features of the Gothic tale: ahaunted house, dreary landscape, mysterious sickness, and doubled personality. For all its easilyidentifiable Gothic elements, however, part of the terror of this story is its vagueness. We cannotsay for sure where in the world or exactly when the story takes place. Instead of standardnarrative markers of place and time, Poe uses traditional Gothic elements such as inclementweather and a barren landscape. We are alone with the narrator in this haunted space, and neither we nor the -narrator know why. Although he is Roderick¶s most intimate boyhood friend, thenarrator apparently does not know much about him²like the basic fact that Roderick has a twinsister. Poe asks us to question the reasons both for Roderick¶s decision to contact the narrator inthis time of need and the bizarre tenacity of narrator¶s response. While Poe provides therecognizable building blocks of the Gothic tale, he contrasts this standard form with a plot that isinexplicable, sudden, and full of unexpected disruptions. The story begins without completeexplanation of the narrator¶s motives for arriving at the house of Usher, and this ambiguity setsthe tone for a plot that continually blurs the real and the fantastic.Poe creates a sensation of claustrophobia in this story. The narrator is mysteriously trapped bythe lure of Roderick¶s attraction, and he cannot escape until the house of Usher collapsescompletely. Characters cannot move and act freely in the house because of its structure, so itassumes a monstrous character of its own²the Gothic mastermind that controls the fate of itsinhabitants. Poe, creates confusion between the living things and inanimate objects by doublingthe physical house of Usher with the genetic family line of the Usher family, which he refers toas the house of Usher. Poe employs the word ³house´ metaphorically, but he also describes a realhouse. Not only does the narrator get trapped inside the mansion, but we learn also that thisconfinement describes the biological fate of the Usher family. The family has no enduring branches, so all genetic transmission has occurred incestuously within the domain of the house.The peasantry confuses the mansion with the family because the physical structure haseffectively dictated the genetic patterns of the family.The claustrophobia of the mansion affects the relations among characters. For example, thenarrator realizes late in the game that Roderick and Madeline are twins, and this realizationoccurs as the two men prepare to entomb Madeline. The cramped and confined setting of the burial tomb metaphorically spreads to the features of the characters. Because the twins are sosimilar, they cannot develop as free individuals. Madeline is buried before she has actually died because her similarity to Roderick is like a coffin that holds her identity. Madeline also suffersfrom problems typical for women in -nineteenth--century literature. She invests all of her identityin her body, whereas Roderick possesses the powers of intellect. In spite of this disadvantage,
 
Madeline possesses the power in the story, almost superhuman at times, as when she breaks outof her tomb. She thus counteracts Roderick¶s weak, nervous, and immobile disposition. Somescholars have argued that Madeline does not even exist, reducing her to a shared figmentRoderick¶s and the narrator¶s imaginations. But Madeline proves central to the symmetrical andclaustrophobic logic of the tale. Madeline stifles Roderick by preventing him from seeinghimself as essentially different from her. She completes this attack when she kills him at the endof the story.Doubling spreads throughout the story. The tale highlights the Gothic feature of thedoppelganger, or character double, and portrays doubling in inanimate structures and literaryforms. The narrator, for example, first witnesses the mansion as a reflection in the tarn, or shallow pool, that abuts the front of the house. The mirror image in the tarn doubles the house, but upside down²an inversely symmetrical relationship that also characterizes the relationship between Roderick and Madeline.The story features numerous allusions to other works of literature, including the poems ³TheHaunted Palace´ and ³Mad Trist´ by Sir Launcelot Canning. Poe composed them himself andthen fictitiously attributed them to other sources. Both poems parallel and thus predict the plotline of ³The Fall of the House of Usher.´ ³Mad Trist,´ which is about the forceful entrance of Ethelred into the dwelling of a hermit, mirrors the simultaneous escape of Madeline from her tomb. ³Mad Trist´ spookily crosses literary borders, as though Roderick¶s obsession with these poems ushers their narratives into his own domain and brings them to life.The crossing of borders pertains vitally to the Gothic horror of the tale. We know from Poe¶sexperience in the magazine industry that he was obsessed with codes and word games, and thisstory amplifies his obsessive interest in naming. ³Usher´ refers not only to the mansion and thefamily, but also to the act of crossing a -threshold that brings the narrator into the perverse worldof Roderick and Madeline. Roderick¶s letter ushers the narrator into a world he does not know,and the presence of this outsider might be the factor that destroys the house. The narrator is thelone exception to the Ushers¶ fear of outsiders, a fear that accentuates the claustrophobic natureof the tale. By undermining this fear of the outside, the narrator unwittingly brings down thewhole structure. A similar, though strangely playful crossing of a boundary transpires both in³Mad Trist´ and during the climactic burial escape, when Madeline breaks out from death tomeet her mad brother in a ³tryst,´ or meeting, of death. Poe thus buries, in the fictitious gravityof a medieval romance, the puns that garnered him popularity in America¶s magazines.
³William Wilso
n
´ (1839)
³In me didst thou exist²and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterlythou hast murdered thyself.´)
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